So, recently I volunteered for a shift a local movie theater and had to go through an orientation that lasted around 20 minutes and some of the things that were discussed included,

  • If under 18, you can't serve alcohol
  • Be polite
  • Don't trash talk the movies

So, I took this all to heart when showing up at my first shift, and once I was wrapping up, I heard some of the paid employees not exactly talking trash about a particular movie but rather about a genre, the conversation had been started not by a coworker but by a potential customer who had come in to buy a membership but eventually just left. I felt uncomfortable approaching them because they were being paid and I wasn't, so I felt like they held authority over me and I just let it slide.

What should I do if another situation like this arises?

  • 1
    @mcknz i did say I let it slide, that was my plan for the immediate future.
    – U.S. Teen
    Jul 17, 2019 at 17:13
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    @PhilipKendall i edited in some info, I hope this helps
    – U.S. Teen
    Jul 17, 2019 at 17:18
  • 1
    ... volunteering at a for-profit business? Jul 17, 2019 at 18:11
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    props for trying to learn professional behavior Jul 17, 2019 at 19:19
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    There are many things in your career journey that should invite reflection, consideration, and thought. This is not one of them.
    – joeqwerty
    Jul 17, 2019 at 21:56

3 Answers 3


There will be many more instances in your work life where peers or people you have no authority over are doing something that goes against company policy or your own ethics. Here is some general advice:

  • If what they are doing does not affect your job and is not causing imminent and serious danger, then let it go. They have managers, and that is the manager's job to deal with.
  • If what they are doing is making it hard for you to do your job, adds to your workload, ask your manager for advice in how to handle the extra work.
  • If what they are doing is dangerous or illegal, then speak up, either to them or a nearby manager.

I think you're experiencing the first - it's their manager's job to deal with. Do your own job well and let it go.

  • 3
    Just to add to this - as you grow in your career you will better learn how to filter our those feelings and find it easier to "do your own job well and let it go." If it makes you uncomfortable gently try to sway the conversation - that's really all you can do. Jul 17, 2019 at 17:21

Whenever someone says a rule, it's generally important to follow it if you can... but it's even more important to figure out why the rule is in place.

In this case, the manager doesn't want you to say, "Geez, that new Flooby movie absolutely sucks" - and a potential movie-goer overhears it and decides that maybe they shouldn't come and watch Flooby next week. The manager doesn't want your comments to hurt sales.

Once you understand the reason behind the rule, it starts to make sense: your coworkers didn't actually do anything wrong. Because there's a huge difference between:

  1. "Geez, that new Flooby movie absolutely sucks"
  2. "Geez, I can't stand horror movies."

Why? Because someone hearing the first might not see Flooby. But someone hearing the second isn't going to be dissuaded from seeing a specific movie. It's not like someone who's a fan of horror movies is going to have their genre taste irrevocably altered by an overheard comment.

Branching off from there, I'd suggest two general rules of thumb:

Be cautious when questioning someone with experience. I'm not saying someone without experience is often wrong, or that someone with experience never is, but... there might be reasons why they're doing what they're doing - that they have experience to judge a bit better. In this case, they might have internalized what I suggested above: it's okay to poke fun at a genre, but doing it to a particular movie might hurt sales. Whenever you see someone with more experience doing something that you're not, take some extra time to figure out why they might be doing it. Sometimes there won't be, but sometimes like this case, there will.

Give people a chance to be good. Let's say they were insulting a specific movie, that they were doing something they definitely shouldn't be doing. Confronting them directly might not be the best approach. Instead, I would simply ask, "Are we allowed to talk bad about the movies? I thought we weren't supposed to criticize them at all when we were on the job?" - aka, give them the chance to say, "Yeah, you're right" without polarizing them or putting them on any sort of defensive.

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    the example of the difference between a particular movie and a genre is really apt, plus 1.
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 17, 2019 at 17:57

I'd do absolutely nothing. Don't be THAT guy to try to tell them to stop it, or to tattle to the boss. And don't join in, either. This is not the same as if you'd specifically hear them badmouthing a particular film that was showing, or serving alcohol to anyone under age. I'd let it slide.

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